Sunday, July 23, 2006

JULY 23 NEW YORK TIMES (AND A LITTLE EXTRA TOO)

Do you know who Ben Stein is? He is a Yale trained attorney, who worked in the Nixon and Ford White Houses. He is also an actor (Bueller, Bueller), TV gameshow host, and sometime political commentator. Today he commented in the New York Times. The guy is a very interesting character, and clearly very smart. Unfortunately, he whiffed in today's comment.

See, Ben is remembering a time during his childhood when Americans shared and cooperated. He talks about his suburban neighborhood not having fences, and the (stay at home) mothers all taking care of each other's kids. He has a specific story about a neighbor installing a pool and making a schedule for other people to use the pool. Very nice. Stein contrasts this to his neighborhood in Beverly Hills. In that neighborhood, Stein does not know his neighbors, and there are tall fences everywhere. What Stein does not mention is that if his parents knew the neighbors, it was because they made the effort to meet those people. If Stein does not know them, it is because he has not made that effort. Ditto the fences and the pool. If you want a different world, Ben, start making one.

Speaking of people you may know, Stanley Fish was in the New York Times. Click on the link. Nice pic, Stan. You the man. Pimp dawg. Anyway, the article drags a little, but I like his point about academic freedom. He explains that "academic freedom" is not "freedom of speech." Instead

Academic freedom means that if I think that there may be an intellectual payoff to be had by turning an academic lens on material others consider trivial — golf tees, gourmet coffee, lingerie ads, convenience stores, street names, whatever — I should get a chance to try. If I manage to demonstrate to my peers and students that studying this material yields insights into matters of general intellectual interest, there is a new topic under the academic sun and a new subject for classroom discussion.

I wish I would have known this articulation when I was in undergrad. It could have come in handy.

The business section has an article about the New Yankee stadium due to open in 2008. It is sort of an interesting retrospective in Steinbrenner's time with the Yankees. However, the funny thing is that the writers are concerned about the ability of the new stadium to generate income sufficient for the Yankees to maintain their winning payroll. Are you kidding? The Yankees have not won the Series since 2000. They've won four World Series since 1980. While better than the Cubs (or anyone else), this is not the sort of dominance that the Yankees' payroll dominance would seem to dictate. Therefore, instead of worrying about the Yankees' ability to buy A-Rod, Sheffield, and all the rest, perhaps the business page folks could have talked to the sports folks and helped explain concepts like scouting, drafting, and player development to the Yankees. They worked for the White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins, Angels, and Diamondbacks.

As a special bonus, this weekend I had the opportunity to check out the Weekend Wall Street Journal. Interestingly, friend G sent me the same article I am about to blog about, but cannot link to. Anyway, this guy went on a tour of the Czech Republic, visiting small, family owned breweries that are building winery-type tourist facilities, including spas, for visitors. With the possible exception of the Belgians, the Czechs make the finest beer in the world, so this sounds like a totally excellent trip. Oh, and the Czechs are the masters of the defenestration.

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